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The interview date was June 2nd, one day after Alanis' 22nd birthday.
Birthdays are a time for taking stock. How do you feel about last year?
I'm a little bit in denial about what's happened. I now look back to what I was doing when I was 15 and go Whoah! I see it very objectively now because of the years that have gone by, so I think the same thing will happen with what's going on right now. Maybe when I'm 30 or 40 I'll look back and go Jesus! I'm trying to keep it together right now. I'm kind of in the eye of the storm and it's very calm and peaceful.
But surely it's anything but calm, or peaceful?
Well, I don't have the same perspective on what's happening to me as people who haven't already been through what I've been through. Because of everything that's led me to this place it makes me feel that it's a very normal thing. After all, it's very simple when you break it down. I spent a couple of months writing songs that were very personal and very self-indulgent. Then they were played on this thing called the radio and people heard it and related to it and they wanted to come and see it live. That's it! It's such a simple thing.
When you see the pictures of the bubble-permed 15-year-old, what are your immediate feelings?
There are two immediate feelings. One is that part of me doesn't know who that is. Aside from the career, I think most people loom at their teenage year pictures and there's a certain sense of detachment. You remember all the pain and you're thankful that you're an adult now. I feel sorry for her, because she didn't know very much. She knew quite a bit but she didn't know what was really going on.
If there was one piece of advice you could give the old you, what would it be?
Don't ever mistrust those voices in your head. Because they were always there and I just ignored them. And take off all that make up. And the heels.
Where you surprised at the cynicism that greeted your reinvention in some circles? "She does the trite thing" went one of the headlines...
I just wish that more people had an incentive to find out the truth. OK, a lot of people have had the wool pulled over their eyes - they've been subjected to artists that aren't coming from a pure place and do consciously reinvent themselves for the sake of being accepted by the public. But sometimes the motives are pure. I suppose I find what the sceptics say morbidly fascinating, but when it comes down to it, being in the public eye and having some people love you, some people hate you and some people not give a shit is not a new concept.
You're a big user and endorser of psychoanalysis, aren't you?
Yeah, I'm a champion for battling your demons, definitely. I don't force it to anyone, but I recommend it, because I've felt its benefits. I think what winds up happening is that people dip their toes into the pool and it's cold so they just run away, as opposed to diving in and realising that in five minutes it feels really great.
You seem very much somewhere else when you're on stage.
It's a complete release up there. I was just telling my twin brother, it's like I'm completely alone. I feel people's energy and I know that they're there, but I'm not - and I don't mean this to sound bad - I'm not really there for them. Sometimes, when I snap out of it and suddenly I can see them all out there, it kills me how sweet they all are. Sometimes my faith in people disappears and they can renew that for me. Their openness and warmth and energy. Like at that Gorge, when they all started singing Happy Birthday.
What's with the stomach-holding up there?
A lot of things I do on stage I think is my way of showing the small amount of uncomfortableness I feel with being that naked. It's a way of holding it in, I suppose. There's still a little coward in there somehwere.
So many of the male characters you introduce are, for want of a better word, bastards. But if an ex-boyfriend wrote a song about you what sort of things would he say?
I'm sure there have been some You Oughta Knows written about me, definitely. The thing is when I think of You Oughta Know the core emotion behind it is pain. To me, anger is a cowardly expression of pain, especially in my case. When I sing it I'm thinking not how pissed off I am but of how pathetically pathetic I was. I put my self esteem in someone else's hands, and if you do that you are sure to be broken. It's inevitable.
You Oughta Know gets all the attention, thanks to "Would she go down on you in a theatre?" mainly. But your most damning song is Not The Doctor, a really calculated picking apart of this clinging individual: "I don't want to be the bandage if the wound is not mine". Like, cheers.
Looking at it through a microscope I could say that the person that I wrote You Oughta Know about could've sang Not the Doctor to me. I have been on both ends, as I said. Because of my strength of character, because of my self-sufficiency a lot of the time I attract people who for whatever reason want to depend on me, and for a long time I would go with it. I would fill them and I would give them my energy and I would protect them and I would fill their proverbial void, y'know? I've cut a lot of people off. And I know that sounds callous, but I had to, for the sake of my own sanity and for their sake really, 'cos I was perpetuating their dependancy.
You speak emphatically in the plural. As if there's this plank on your back carrying this army of people...
There's a lot of people. I've had a lot of friendships and acquaintances and relationships in my life. Tons! I've met so many people. Maybe not this week, but in my "youth". I've led two different lives when I was younger. (Distractedly) There was always a 40-year-old in me...Then there was my young self. And with that double life happening you just meet more people.
Who was the first bloke you snogged?
What does (waggles fingers) "snogged" mean?
Smooched with, spooned with, "did tongues".
(Uproarious cackle) Ooooh, I "snogged" a boy in grade eight, I was 14. It was horrible and I broke up with him a week later.
If you had to pick two adjectives for each member of your band, what would they be?
Tee-hee, that's fun! Taylor Hawkins would be pure and passionate, and Chris Chaney would be disciplined and innocent, Nick Lashley would be thoughtful and giving - he's become a guitar teacher on the road for me - and Jesse Tobias is, um, is so growthful and complex.
Wow, what a weird rock band you have. All that purity and innocence floating about.
(Unfazed) Yeah, it's great. And together they are greater than the sum of their parts.
You are Canadian. Do you feel, carving through the United States selling millions of records, at all alien?
When I first ,oved to LA I was the hugest alien. My manager called me up when I was getting my immigration done and he said that under American laws I was considered an "alien with a special talent" and I thought, Er thanks, that's just perfect. But the cultural difference between America and Canada cannot be underestimated, and I did underestimate it before I moved. Canadians are really good listeners and sometimes I struggle with that with Americans.
What could we expect to discover if we visited your house?
It would be very woody. There'd be incense and candles. Very simple. There wouldn't be a lot of electronics. I'm very slowly coaxing myself into the technical revolution.
You're a hippy, aren't you?
Yeah, I am a hippy. I fluctuate between being very 1996 and very, um, 1970. If someone were to send me somewhere else in time it would be in the whole hippy era, definitely.
Do you have any vices?
I play guitar - not exactly a self-destructive vice, but when I'm freaking out I'll grab a guitar. My lifestyle is one big fat vice - there are so many exciting stimuli. I'm a workoholic, that's my vice.
Come on, that's not a proper vice. Do you ever smoke a secret cigarette? Play practical jokes? Get shit-faced?
There's certainly a mischievous, sadistic part to my personality. But it's not cruel, it's just...young. I can be very 21...er, 22. I'll get very hyper and really childlike.
So no group sex on crack, then.
Look, if I ever have group sex on crack you'll be the first to know. Sheesh, I knew I wouldn't be rebellious enough for Q. Your pull quotes are so scandalous.
You have five weeks of gigs on the West Coast, three weeks in Europe, another five back here in the States and then more shows on the Pacific rim. You must be insanely driven or indestructible to be doing this. Or both...
But if I wasn't playing every night, I'd be dead. I'd explode. I'm not doing this to sell records, I'm doing it because I'm 22 and I can. There may be a point where I have a family, I have children and I won't want to be away from them, but what am I away from now? My storage space? If someone had asked me a year ago, Do you wanna tour the world? I'd have said, Where do I sign? So I'm not doing it to sell records, I'm doing it because it's a magical, testing, challenging experience.
What would your perfect day off be?
To sit by the ocean. To have a really good book nearby. To be alone really - I don't have much time alone - though it would be nice to have somebody, a sort of therapist-type figure who I could (clicks fingers) call upon if there was some issue I was grappling with. They would appear when I wanted them to and then they'd disappear and I'd be alone again. And I'd have a puppy. That would be the perfect day.
You've managed to avoid being represented in a sexually stereotypical manner, and yet you must be aware that you're a pin-up.
A pin-up is...Well, celebrity creates that. Someone might well be nervous around you because you've been on TV or you've created this famous thing, but that's something that I've never understood because I've never been in awe of anyone. When I was a kid I was around a lot - quote, unquote - "celebrities" and I remember thinking, You're so human yet everyone around you is freaking out. Why is that? Some art brings fame, other art doesn't. I suppose some art is underappreciated.
You use the word "magic" an awful lot.
Really? It's a word that sells what I really mean to say short. There's no word that can describe what I mean by magic. It's a vibrating, warm, inexplicable, other-wordly beauty - something that I can really feel. You know, there are so many inexplicable things that have happened over the last couple of years - things like how a song can appear and I don't even remember writing it, not even remember singing it. I'm humbled by the fact that I can't figure any of that stuff out, and me such a thinker, too.
Which songs do you not remember writing?
All the ones on the record. I don't know where Perfect came from. I don't know where Head Over Feet came from. It was overwhelming - I'd listen to the song the next day and go Whoah, who wrote that?! Glen and I laugh about that all the time (laughs) We reckon that maybe we don't have anything to do with it.
Can you think what your earliest memory might be?
I remember Kindergarten, in Germany where we lived for three years. I remember being with my twin brother everywhere we went. Most of all, I remember being me totally. I had the same view on life even when I was really little.
Your dressing room was burgled backstage at The Gorge. What did they get away with?
About $8000's worth of my equipment, video tapes of the tour, cassettes with half written songs on them. Fuck. I don't write a diary because I thought - and this is the ironic part - somebody might steal it. So I thought it would be safer to film everything. It's thrown me into a weird, dark funk because I don't understand why anyone would do that. It's confirmed my already neurotic fear for my own safety. It hasn't always been founded, but little things like this keep happening, much to the chagrin of those around me who are constantly trying to convince me that I'm safe. This doesn't help their case very much.
Do you feel bitter about the way you were channelled when you were younger?
I was creating in an environment that was very judgemental, not very safe. They - my collaborators, producers - had their own structured way of songwriting, whereas when I was young and wrote poetry it was a stream-of-consciousness process, a very unfettered kind of crazy experience, and when I went into the studio I'd want to apply that to my songs. But I guess I went along with them, though all the while there was something amiss. But it seemed to get so many thumbs up, so many pats on the back, I thought it must be the right thing to do.
a stream-of-consciousness process, a very unfettered kind of crazy experience, and when I went into the studio I'd want to apply that to my songs. But I guess I went along with them, though all the while there was something amiss. But it seemed to get so many thumbs up, so many pats on the back, I thought it must be the right thing to do.
You said something very odd about drugs once: that taking them would be like admitting that you : "weren't perfect".
I was sort of thinking how disappointed my parents would be. When I did try it out from time to time I just decided that life was confusing and complex enough without adding to it the fact that my brain was being altered. I feel like I'm on drugs all the time anyway, and I'm really good at contact highs. I'm really scared of being that much out of control, and my self-esteem is too high for it.
You didn't have a bad experience, then?
I've had bad experiences with people around me, who I've had to talk through it and walk through it many times, and I don't wanna be on their end of it. Euch, it's scary.
You're always alluding to your self-esteem. Are there still things you don't like about yourself?
Hell, yeah. So many things. I'm still trying to get it together in the relationship department. I'm trying to be patient with the differences between men and women. Like, I'm really good at being close with women and trying to get better at being close with men.
What's the answer? Practice?
Well, I'm in a relationship right now. No, he's not in my band and no he's not involved with me as an artist - he's very outside. Yeah, I need practice, but at the moment I just don't have enough time for it.
Do you have a recurring dream?
I have this recurring dream that I get on an elevator, and as it gets higher and higher there's less and less oxygen and the air gets really prickly, and the elevator's rocking back and forth, back and forth and then it opens and at the top there's just this huge crazy earthquake.
How good does success feel?
When I was younger I was motivated be adulation and awards and chart success. I thought if you had all that celebrity status then everyone would love you. I quickly learned that the opposite was in fact true, that if your foundation is not there and you're thrown into this crazy whirlwind, then you're fucked. The most ironic thing was that the moment that I let go and stopped wanting it was the moment that I got more of it than I'd ever gotten in my life. And I can't forget that, what led me into this fulfilled place.
What happens next?
You know, I think these 13 songs have only just scratched the surface. An author can write about 20 books and still not feel he's written his first. At the moment I'm still trying to get used to the power that I have, the power that just by default comes along with having a successful record
[end of interview]